United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
N. Bloch United States District Judge.
NOW, this 21st day of November, 2019, upon
consideration of Defendant Larry L. Stuler's pro
se “F.R.Cv.P. Rule 60(b)(4) Motion to Vacate
Orders of Court Due to Court's Failure to Notify
Defendant of Order to Substitute Attorney for Plaintiff
Causing Defendant to Be Prejudiced Because of Denial of Due
Process” (Doc. No. 123), and brief in support thereof,
filed in the above-captioned matter on August 24, 2018, IT IS
HEREBY ORDERED that Defendant's Motion is DENIED.
motion and brief, Defendant asks the Court, pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(4), to vacate its
orders entered on February 11, 2009 (Doc. No. 25), January
26, 2010 (Doc. Nos. 55 & 56), and January 25, 2018 (Doc.
No. 98), arguing that the judgment in this case is void since
the Court did not notify him that Department of Justice
(“DOJ”) attorney E. Christopher Lambert had been
substituted for DOJ attorney Thomas J. Jaworski, on or after
July 28, 2008, which denied him his due process
Court notes that the most recent order that Defendant seeks
to have vacated, the Order of Sale entered on January 25,
2018, has in fact already been vacated by the Court. (Doc.
No. 129). Therefore, to the extent Defendant seeks to have
that order vacated, his motion is moot.
regard to the other orders that Defendant seeks to have
vacated, Rule 60(b) provides that “[o]n motion and just
terms, the court may relieve a party or its legal
representative from a final judgment, order, or proceeding
for the following reasons: . . . (4) the judgment is
void.” “When a judgment is void, it is ‘one
which, from its inception, was a complete nullity and without
legal effect.'” In re Diet Drugs v. American
Home Products Corp., 434 F.Supp.2d 323, 333 (E.D. Pa.
2006) (quoting Raymark Indus., Inc. v. Lai, 973 F.2d
1125, 1132 (3d Cir. 1992)). The Court of Appeals for the
Third Circuit has explained that a judgment may be voided on
two grounds: “‘(1) if the rendering court lacked
subject matter jurisdiction or (2) if it acted in a manner
inconsistent with due process of law.'” In re
Diet Drugs, 434 F.Supp.2d at 333 (quoting Constr.
Drilling, Inc. v. Chusid, 131 Fed.Appx. 366, 372 (3d
Cir. 2005)). While certain other subsections of Rule 60 are
subject to a one-year filing requirement, a longer delay in
bringing a 60(b)(4) motion may be permitted since “no
passage of time can render a void judgment valid.”
United States v. One Toshiba Color Television, 213
F.3d 147, 157 (3d Cir. 2000).
Defendant previously filed a number of Rule 60(b) motions
(some of which have been denied as frivolous) in the months
following the judgment being entered in this case (Doc. Nos.
57, 59, 63, 67, 71, 75), his current motion to vacate
pursuant to Rule 60(b) was not filed until August 24, 2018,
well over 8 years after the Court had entered the first order
that he now seeks to have vacated. However, since Defendant
alleges a violation of his due process rights under Rule
60(b)(4), the Court will not treat the motion as time-barred.
Court notes at the outset that the argument presented by
Defendant in his motion is somewhat unclear. Defendant
claims, generally, that the Court's failure to notify him
that the government's counsel had changed, from one
attorney to another within the DOJ, early on in the case,
“led to Defendant's being denied his right to be
heard in court which is the essence of due process.”
(Doc. No. 124 at 14). More specifically, Defendant appears to
argue that the government failed to comply with the local
rules of court regarding changes in counsel, that the Court
failed to notify him of changes in the government's
representation, that Defendant then served the wrong
government attorneys, that this caused the Court not to
consider “Defendant's Notice to the Court of
Prosecutorial Vindictiveness and Further Contumacious
Behavior” (hereinafter “Notice, ” Doc. No.
97), that Defendant was therefore not fully heard in court,
and that he was thus denied his due process rights. (Doc. No.
124 at 3, 6).
although Defendant relies on LCvR 83.2(C) of the Local Rules
of the United States District Court for the Western District
of Pennsylvania to argue that the attorney appearance and
withdrawal process was not properly followed in this case,
that rule does not expressly require that a party be given
notice of an opposing party's change in counsel. Notably,
the rule requires an attorney to file a motion to withdraw if
that attorney wishes to withdraw his or her appearance, but
it does not prohibit the Court itself from removing an
attorney from a case, as was done here in 2008.
even if the local rules regarding attorney appearances and
withdrawals had not been followed in this case, to the extent
Defendant is arguing that the Court's failure to notify
him of changes in the opposing party's representation
somehow affected the Court's consideration of
Defendant's Notice-because of which government attorneys
were served-that simply did not happen. As the Court had
access to, and has considered, all documents filed in this
case-regardless of who Defendant served on the
government's behalf-the Court has properly addressed the
arguments Defendant raised in the notices and motions filed
throughout the course of this litigation, including those
contained in his Notice.
although Defendant now appears to contend that his Notice
should have been considered by the Court in ruling on the
government's Motion for Order of Sale, that Notice was
actually filed nearly 8 months after the briefing on such
motion had ended, and it expressly addressed the
government's discovery requests that Defendant had just
received, not the Motion for Order of Sale. In fact,
Defendant's Notice explicitly stated that it was filed
“in response to the United States' requests for
production of documents and the United States'
interrogatories dated July 11, 2017.” (Doc. No. 97 at
1). Further, examination of that Notice reveals that it
clearly notified the Court of Defendant's intention not
to respond to the discovery requests that the government had
recently sent him in order to execute on the judgment in this
case, and it provided a number of reasons why Defendant did
not plan to comply with those requests.
Defendant's Notice has in fact been considered by the
Court-in its designated context-in denying the
government's motion to compel Defendant to produce
discovery responses, filed herewith. Thus, Defendant has not
shown that he was denied due process because the Court's
failure to notify him of the government's change in
counsel, which caused him to serve the wrong attorney on the
government's behalf, resulted in the Court not
“sitting in judicial review” of his Notice.
Defendant also claims in a related argument, albeit in a
somewhat unclear manner, that his Notice explained how the
government had actually acknowledged its failure to adhere to
Local Rule 83.2(C)(4),  but that the Court did not address that
Notice in its order granting the Motion for Order of Sale
because Defendant had only served Mr. Jaworski, and not the
government's later-substituted attorneys. (Doc. No. 124
at 6, 14-15). Defendant contends, here again, that the
attorney substitution procedure operated to prejudice him by
not allowing him to be heard in Court on this particular
matter. (Doc. No. 124 at 3).
explained, supra, Defendant's Notice expressly
provided his response to the government's discovery
requests, and the substance of that Notice is properly
addressed in the Court's order denying the
government's motion to compel, filed herewith. The Court
did not improperly fail to consider that Notice when ruling
on the Motion for Order of Sale because Defendant served one
attorney rather than another; rather, the Court has
considered all documents filed in this case in the context in
which they were presented.
Defendant has not shown that changes in representation among
the government attorneys-within the DOJ, without notifying
him-prevented him from being ...